The Horror of Standing Ovations on Broadway

Categories: Theater

Yes, the situation has become a horror, mainly because it's so boringly expected now.

If someone shows up, you stand.

If they get through the show without dropping dead, you stand and cheer!

You simply have to stand after every show to prove that you got your money's worth, even if you didn't (or even if it was comp).

It's become an obligatory part of the theatrical experience (except at The Anarchist).

And this mania has gotten really unhealthy, IMHO.

I just read about a respected actress who took her bow to a complete standing ovation except for one woman in the front row who marched to her own drum while fully seated.

"Why aren't you standing?" the actress asked the woman. "It's rude."

The lady should have responded, "Oh, really? What's really rude is demanding that everyone stand!

"Sitting is not against the law, you know!"

And maybe the woman was tired, has health problems, or simply didn't adore what she'd seen.

Or quite possibly she did like it, but didn't feel the need to leap to her feet in a cliched show of public over-appreciation.

Paying for your ticket and then applauding is certainly enough of a give-back to a performer who's done their job.

In my case, I try to never stand up, so I won't either show my hand or give off the wrong impression.

If I loved it, it's no one's business till publication time, and if I didn't, I don't want people to think "Ooh, it's a thumbs up," then read my review three days later saying it was a pile of caca.

As a result, I rarely see the curtain calls because everyone's standing around me as I stubbornly sit, to prove my point.

But I'll ask my friend, "Who just came out for their bow?"

If it's someone I liked, I'll clap extra hard.

My Voice Nation Help

The horror of the hand-slapping. It's getting ridiculous.It happens every show I go to nowadays. After each act or musical performance, members of the audience engage in this subhuman display of pleasure or emotion. They just repeatedly slap together their two hands, over and over. It seems they are trying to be heard by the actors on stage, and often compete with one another, looking around to see whose hand-slaps are the loudest or most prolonged. Can't we just show our approval with quiet smiles or nods of the head? What happened to basic human decency? I am sick of constantly finding myself in a sea of chimpanzees.


Howwabout those occasional instances when moviegoers give the screen a standing ovation. Now that's lame!

miles46 1 Like

Sondheim touched upon this is the documentary "ShowBusiness" about the 2003-04 Broadway season. He said that theatergoing has become such an "event" because of the cost, that (tourist) audiences stand at the end to assert that they were in fact a part of the "event" and got something for their money.

PhillyRob 1 Like

Keep fighting the good fight, Michael.  I don't stand unless something is astonishingly good.  Looking at asses is not always a bad thing, either.  


I thought it only happened out here in the sticks, where people are just thrilled to get out of the house. The problem is, if you don't stand when everybody else does, all you can see are a bunch of asses in every direction.


So true...but, go to a "straight" play on a Tuesday, Wednesday night, when the audience is mostly NYC'ers and you won't find that happening as much...Tourists have to validate the ticket price  AND the bragging rights to the folks back home.